Less is More

                                                    Photo by Ben Oh. Flickr Creative Commons

I have always been a neat freak I knew that I preferred to live in a tidy space, but it wasn't until after my divorce a couple of years ago that I have learned that, for me, less is more.

When I moved into my cute little 1962 ranch house in 2011, I brought only a few pieces of furniture from my old dwelling: a chest of drawers my step-mother had given me that I had refinished myself, my hope chest from my high school graduation, a handmade bookshelf from my parents, and my beloved elfa shelving and desk for my home office.  I knew that these core pieces would serve me well for storage.   I also brought with me my beautiful antique radio and my favorite pieces of art.

From there, I decided to be very particular about the rest of the things that came to live in my home.  Practicing what I preach to my organizing clients, anything I bought or was given had to fit well in the space and be either something I used or loved.  I also made it a point to buy very little brand new items.  For one thing, I have a taste for mid-century modern furniture like the kind you might see on the set of "Mad Men".  This stream-lined style fits well with my desire to minimize visual clutter.  Also, I love the idea of giving a second or third life to things.  So, besides new linens and some kitchenware, most everything else came from consignment and antique stores at a fraction of the cost of buying retail.

And I continue to be vigilant about minimizing how much stuff comes into my life and my home.  I do this because I have a strong sense of calm when I am surrounded only by what I need, use, and love.  And as an added benefit, this more simple and practical lifestyle has allowed me to save tons of money.  Before I add a thing, I think about where it will live in my home.  If there is no room for an item without cluttering or cramping the space, I will often get rid of something else either by reselling, donating, or trashing it. 

Through this life of voluntary simplicity, I have come to value the zen calm that flat, open spaces bring.  I appreciate the flow of energy and creativity that is allowed to occur when my closets, drawers, countertops, and shelves aren't filled to capacity.  I have also found that I am more grateful for what I do haveBy purposefully minimizing my possessions, I believe I have left room to attract more positives into my life. And the good just keeps pouring in.

To Shred or Not to Shred

We all know that one of the best ways we can protect ourselves from identity theft is to use a shredder for much of the personal mail that comes into our homes.  But what types of things need to go into the  shredder and what can go straight into the trash?   

Here are some of the things I recommend that you shred either in a home shredder or in an industrial shredder such as those found in corporate settings or those available at free community shredding events such as the ones I mention at the end of this list.

  •  Documents containing personal information such as your full name, date of birth, address, work or home telephone numbers, Social Security number, or driver's license number
  • Any documents containing account numbers, passwords, or user names
  • The pages of junk mail that have your name and address or computer bar codes which may contain personal information
  • Financial documents that contain information specific to your accounts
  • Credit card offers and applications
  • Blank courtesy checks
  • Monthly bills
  • Old credit cards and credit card statements
  • Unused checks
  • Any tax documents that contain personal information
  • Anything with your signature, including receipts that have all but the last four digits of your account hidden
For those in the Atlanta area, there are two upcoming shredding events that will help you get rid of your shredding backlog:

On April 16 from 10 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., the Community School and Eagle Secure Shredding will be having a community shred day in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church of Decatur located at 308 Clairmont Avenue.  A $5 donation per box (maximum of 10 boxes per patron, please) is welcomed and all proceeds go to the Community School, a school for junior and high school students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. You can find more information on this event at www.thecommunityschool.net

There will also be a community shred day on Saturday, April 30 from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. in the Resurgens Bank parking lot (2300 Henderson Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30345).  This event will be sponsored by the Northlake Community Alliance, Inc. , Resurgens Bank, and Eagle Secure Shredding. The event is free but there is a request for (tax-exempt) donations to support the work of Northlake Community Alliance.  There is a limit of 5 copy-paper sized boxes or equivalent bags.  Arrangements can be made for large shred jobs by contacting Ian Taylor at Eagle Secure Shredding at (770) 619-5300.  For more information go to www.resurgensbank.com.

If you would prefer to do your shredding at home, I recommend that you invest in the best cross-cut or diamond-cut shredder that you can afford.  Don't waste your money on the cheaper strip-cut shredders as their shredding can be put back together by identity thieves and the cheaper machines wear out really quickly.

March 19th Decatur Electronics Recycling Event

For those of you in the Atlanta area, it's time for the City of Decatur's bi-annual Electronics Recycling day.  Bring your old cell phones, cameras, PC components and other outdated and unused electronic equipment to the Decatur High School parking lot from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 19th.  The lot for drop-offs is located at the corner of N. McDonough Street and W. Howard Avenue.

Electronics dropped off will be sorted and broken down into raw materials and sent to recyclers for reuse.  In addition to electronics, you may drop off batteries of any type, Styrofoam peanuts, clean Styrofoam blocks free of foreign objects, mercury thermometers and thermostats.

Televisions may also be recycled for a $10 cash-only fee per TV with exact change.  There is no charge to recycle other items.

Recyclables must be dropped off between 9 a.m. - 1:00 on Saturday.  Early drop-offs are not possible.  Almost anything with an electrical cord can by recycled except microwave ovens.  For more information including a full list of recyclables allowed and last-minute updates, visit www.decaturga.com/electronicsrecycling.

I take advantage of this recycling opportunity often and can attest to the fact that it's a very well run event.  You'll be in and out in no time!

Taking Photos of Visual Clutter

There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs with my organizing clients when I take "before" photos of their space.   When we look at the photos of the cluttered spaces they live in day-to-day, they are often shocked by just how cluttered the space appears.  It's as though they have become desensitized to this visual clutter and no longer notice it.  But a photograph offers them an "outsider's view" of the space and helps the client acknowledge the real scope of the project.

Some people have a very high tolerance for visual clutter and are quite comfortable living and working in spaces in which all flat spaces are covered with stuff.  With these clients, I tend to focus more on the functionality of the space rather than the way a space looks (not that you can't do both, but the emphasis on appearance is minimized). 

Other folks have a very low tolerance for visual clutter and become anxious and unfocused trying to function in a busy-looking, cluttered space.  With these clients, I focus more on storage solutions than I may with the clutter-tolerant people. 

The real challenge is when a clutter-tolerant person lives with a clutter-intolerant person.  In those situations, I work with both people to create compromises so that they can both be more comfortable and functional in their space. 

If you are clutter-intolerant and you're living with a clutter-tolerant person, consider taking photos of the space of concern.  Then try having a calm, constructive conversation with the clutter-tolerant person where you show them the photos and explain how the clutter affects you.  Seeing the clutter from the outsider's perspective offered by a photo may help them see things with new eyes prompting positive change.

Come see me Saturday, February 26 at Finders Keepers Furnishings

Join me this Saturday morning, February 26th at 9:30 a.m. as I wrap up the Finders Keepers free "Get Organized" lecture series.  This two month series has featured several members of the National Association of Professional Organizers, Georgia Chapter.

Saturday's presentation entitled "Making Room for Purpose and Passion" covers ways to make room, literally and figuratively, for more fun, creativity, purpose and passion in your life.  We will discuss everything from cutting clutter to dumping toxic relationships to reclaiming what YOU want more of in your space and in your day-to-day life. 

This workshop will begin at 9:30 a.m. sharp (we organizers like to respect your time) at Finders Keepers Furnishings.  Seats are first come, first serve, and there is also plenty of standing room available for overflow.  When I spoke in January we had a standing-room-only crowd! 

For questions, please call Finders Keepers at (404) 377-1944 or go to http://www.fkconsign.com/Finders-Keepers-Furnishings.html

I hope to see you there!!

Is Your Home Your Sanctuary?

When you walk into your home after a hard day's work, do you breathe a sigh of relief as you settle into your cozy space, or do you cringe at the clutter that faces you on the other side of your front door?

For many of us, clutter is more than just a nuisance.  Instead, it is a problem that can rob us of our sense of calm and well being.  Your home should be your sanctuary, the place where you come to relax and restore your spirit.  If you feel stress in your home because of chaos and clutter, one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself is to reign in this clutter, reclaim your space, and embrace a sense of calm.

The first step is to pick one room that you will deem your sanctuary.  This may be your bedroom, your study, a man-cave in the basement, or a nook for an artist's studio.  Once the space is decided upon, take a box or clothes hamper and remove everything from the space that needs to live elsewhere in the house. 

Then take a look at what is left and decide whether you REALLY need to keep everything or if maybe some of the items have outlived their welcome.  Assign homes to the items that are left and put them away.  Once you have only the essentials in the room, it is easier to organize what's left in a way that is visually pleasing either with shelves, boxes, bins or cabinets.   

Finally, make sure that you monitor the upkeep of this sacred sanctuary space so that you have at least one place in your home where you can regularly retreat to relax, read, meditate or whatever else helps you unwind and recharge your battery.

Opting Out of Catalogs

Now that the holidays are behind us, you may have noticed that you are receiving new catalogs in the mail simply because of your recent holiday shopping patterns.  There's a way to opt out of receiving most of these catalogs without having to contact each individual retailer.  Catalog Choice is a free service that offers opt-out requests for individual companies from one web site.  I used this service when they first came on the scene in 2007 and have noticed a drastic reduction in the number of catalogs landing in my mailbox.

The are also now offering a premium service where, for an annual $20 donation, they will communicate opt-outs to the third-party marketing companies that trade your name and personal information based on your buying history and behavioral characteristics.  This stops more mail at the source and enhances your privacy protection.  You may sign up for up to four name and address combinations that you want Catalog Choice to submit for unlisting. 

Save trees, stop catalogs from cluttering up your home, and protect your privacy by signing up at www.catalogchoice.org.